An Interview with Mike Love of The Beach Boys: Catchin’ A Wave

Vintage cars, California girls, and happenin’ beaches—sounds like a pretty sweet dream, right? Throw in some catchy melodies and complex harmonies and you’ve got yourself some great tracks to rock out to when driving to your summer vacation destination. However, these songs aren’t anything new. In fact, these works of art graced music lovers’ ears before the British Invasion, brought to many generations by rock legends: The Beach Boys.

These music gods have been crafting music and performing for over 50 years, but the musicians and their tunes still manage to make their way into the hearts of their young fans. The mix of their beautiful melodies and fun lyrics can win over any beach-ready kid and instill sweet nostalgia in the older Beach Boy followers. Good music can form an unspoken bond between not only the artist and fan, but between generation gaps and relatives, which has become apparent among the growing Beach Boy fan base.

So, with the start of summer, The Beach Boys are heading out to celebrate the warmth of the sun with their adoring fans with a lengthy tour. I was lucky enough to speak with Mike Love, one of the founding members of the beloved Beach Boys, about the tour, the release of his autobiography, and what it means to be one of The Beach Boys.

How does a Beach Boy spend the few remaining days leading up to a lengthy tour?

Well, right now, believe it or not, I’m home in Lake Tahoe and it’s beautiful here. I’m pretty well packed and ready to go, but I’m doing a little recording of my autobiography that’s coming out. The release date is September 13, so I’m reading it—doing the audio book. So if people wanna get the audio version instead of the print, it’s my voice instead of somebody else who’s been hired to do it.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of days and I will leave Thursday morning to go to Salt Lake City. There’s a place that’s near Salt Lake that has a nice little venue and we play two nights there on Thursday and Friday and then we move on to Arizona and then by Sunday, we’ll be off to Arcadia, California. And then we go to Eastern Canada. We fly over there on Monday to Nova Scotia and so we’re there for four days and then we fly to New York, have a night off there before we do Coney Island, which oughta be really fun. They have fireworks and all that. And then, of course, we’re gonna be in White Plains on the sixth. Then we go up to New England—but we’re all over the East Coast from Eastern Canada and all the way down to the Mid Atlantic.

One of the things I’m really looking forward to is going to Ocean City in Jersey. It’s just so cool. I mean, we’ve done Ocean City dozens of times over the years and it is what it is. You play in the casinos and that kind of stuff. It’s not really always the best environment for families, or for true music fans because the casinos want you to do kind of an “evening with.” But our favorite thing to do because we have so many hits and songs that we like to do is like an “evening with,” where we’ll do an hour to begin with, followed by an intermission, followed by our second half. It’s a lot of music, but we really enjoy doing it, being musicians and singers and having a hand in writing a majority of our hit songs, I enjoy being able to do what we do and I enjoy the fact that the audience, even after five decades, still enjoys our songs. Even children, you know, just getting familiar with our music—they love The Beach Boys, too.

There was a 10-year-old girl just about three years ago and I asked her, “What’s your favorite Beach Boys song?” And she says, “409.” Well, “409” was a car song that was on the backside of the record Surfin’ Safari from 1962. So it was written more than 40 years before she was born and that was one of her favorite Beach Boys songs! So it’s pretty amazing. I find the thing is that families can see The Beach Boys together and all generations can enjoy our music. And that’s why I’m excited to go to Coney Island because it’s a big family holiday and I’m excited to go to Ocean City, New Jersey, because we’re doing shows there two days in a row and we’re going to be able to stay there three nights and it’s a really beautiful environment down there. The boardwalk is not like it used to be 50 years ago when we first performed there, but Ocean City is so nice. It’s just a family-branded place. It’s gonna be fun, fun, fun!

‘Till her daddy took the T-Bird away (laughs). And touring better still be fun. I saw that you guys are touring through the entire summer and a good chunk of the fall. How do you handle such a lengthy season? Do you miss home after a while?

I do. I have an incredible home in Lake Tahoe, high in the mountains with a magnificent view of the lake. I’m sitting in my recording studio, and I’m recording, like I said, the audio portion for the book… But the audience response is so phenomenal ordinarily at our concerts. Without that, I probably wouldn’t be as drawn to going out as much as we do. But we find that, as musicians, I’m not just talking only about myself—I’m talking about the band, our crew… I mean, we do spend a lot of time away from home, but there are 365 days in a year. So if you spend 150 of them traveling, you still have half a year! It’s pretty cool the way it works out because we’re out a month at a time, then have four or five days off, then go out again and have maybe 10 days off. And another month, we might have the month off.

It is intense in the summertime when the amphitheaters are open and everybody’s off, the beach locations are happening—the lakes. The resort areas are open and a lot of times they have festivals going in the summer… There’s more to do in the summer months for singers and performers than any other time in the year. We love what we do and we love the fact that people still enjoy our music. I mean, I don’t remember a time in my life when there wasn’t music. My mom was way into music. Recitals, opera singing, nice harmonies, and things like that. So I think that’s why the older generations like The Beach Boys, but the younger do as well because the songs are so youthful.

I understand. I drive to school listening to you guys!

Oh, yeah! That’s great!

(Laughs) And your music and harmonies are so complex. How did you manage to nail them down and write it all?

Well, what it is, is we have a song idea—a concept or an idea. In the case in “Fun, Fun, Fun,” I came up with the idea. So I said to Brian [Wilson], “Let’s do a song about a girl who borrows her dad’s car and goes cruisin’ rather than going to the library. So she picks up her friends and goes cruisin’ to the, at that time, hamburger stand.” That song started with the concept and a lyric. But there are others that started with the music. We would have a melody and I would sit at the piano with my cousin Brian and we would write a song together and because we were writing together and I was singing and coming up with the lyrics and the storyline of the song, then it turns out that I would sing the lead because it would be in my key. And Brian was brilliant with crafting the chord progressions and the harmonies—I mean, nobody was better than Brian Wilson doing harmonies. And the chord progressions of the harmonies are constantly moving and a lot of them are sophisticated harmonies.

Even though a song might be about a car or a race or a California girl or surfing, the harmonies distinguished the sound from any of the other groups. And not everybody can do them because we were fortunate enough to have been raised in an environment where all that there was, were harmonies. Brian just gravitated to that while I’m more of a conceptualist and lyricist. For instance, “Get Around.” I said, “Brian, (sings) ‘Round, ‘round get around, I get around.” It hits you right away. I was always searching for a way for the song to be catchy. They call it a hook. And then craft the lyrics to conform to the melodies, and then the harmonies would support the melodies. It’s complicated, but if you have the talent for it, it’s pretty easy.

Exactly! And you’d mentioned earlier that you have an autobiography coming out in September. Why did you choose to write one now?

You know, I have never come out with anything in my voice. There’s been a lot of conjecture, a lot of inaccuracies, a lot of fabrications about what I did and did not do. I lived the life. I was there. It’s not an opinion. I lived the life and I wanted to express my point of view in it so that my children, grandchildren, fans—the people who love The Beach Boys can hear from me. There’ve been books done by Brian, or books that are about him. So this is the first time that I’ve ventured out to give my view point and my experience and my words. There are things that are attributed to me that I’ve never said. I mean, I’ve done some things that I’m not proud of. But on the other hand, I’d like to take ownership of what I did and why I did all of that and I think it’s a good thing to be able to explain to people. It might contradict a lot of falses that have been out there for years, but that’s the way it goes.


Don’t miss as The Beach Boys make their way to The Amphitheater At Coney Island Boardwalk on July 4, the Westchester County Center on July 6, Ocean City Music Pier on July 11 and 12, Bethel Woods Center For The Arts on July 15, Ocean Grove Great Auditorium on July 16, and the Sands Bethlehem Event Center on July 17. For more information on these legends, check them out at